Attorney General

Justice Department opens Harvard admissions probe, threatens to sue for documents

  • Print.

Memorial Hall at Harvard University/Marco Jose Bastos Silva (

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the admissions practices at Harvard and has threatened to sue the university to obtain documents, according to published reports.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Harvard’s admissions policies violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination in programs receiving federal funding, report the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), CNN and Reuters. The articles are based on a review of letters (PDF) from the Justice Department to Harvard’s lawyers.

The Justice Department informed the university that it is investigating allegations first raised in a pending lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions. The suit contends Harvard discriminates by limiting the number of Asian-Americans admitted the university.

The Justice Department said Harvard had failed to produce documents about its admissions policies by a Nov. 2 deadline, and “may file a lawsuit” if the school doesn’t comply by Dec. 1.

Harvard “has pursued a strategy of delay and has not yet produced even a single document,” according to the Justice Department. The letters said Harvard lawyer Seth Waxman, a WilmerHale partner, had challenged DOJ’s authority to investigate the school under Title VI.

Harvard had proposed restricted access to some documents, but the Justice Department said the proposal was not acceptable.

See also: “Supreme Court upholds affirmative action program at University of Texas”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.